Understanding and Assessing Impacts
In British Columbia, Canada, windstorms are a major concern for distribution and transmission lines. In December 2014, a windstorm left 100,000 customers in the province without power. Outages such as this one can have significant impacts on society, shutting down businesses and critical infrastructure such as telecommunication networks and hospitals. Since the key to reducing the impacts of an outage is to act quickly and effectively, advance knowledge of extreme weather events is quite valuable. ‘What would a windstorm be like in the future, considering the impact of climate change?’ is a question that many scientists would like to be able to answer with a high degree of confidence. However, extreme events are by nature rare and challenging to analyze. A review of available data related to projected extreme events in the country by Natural Resources Canada shows increasing trends in both the frequency and intensity of extreme hot days and in precipitation amounts for most of Canada — variables in which the scientific community has good confidence. For other weather conditions, such as wind and freezing rain — variables that can have significant impacts on energy-system components such as transmission lines—the information is not as robust. Utilities are therefore left with many uncertainties concerning the frequency and intensity of extreme events in the future. To gain more specialized information than the data provided by the Government of Canada through Environment Canada, BC Hydro developed in-house weather and hydrology forecasting capacity. Much of BC Hydro’s critical infrastructure and reservoirs are in very remote areas of British Columbia, and are subject to a variety of weather risk. The company’s weather and hydrology forecasting team produces information is able to fill knowledge gaps for specific places, such as remote reservoirs and transmission lines.